Updated all in one player improves audio dramatically.
Company & Product Overview
Sonos was founded in June of 2002 by a group of music lovers who saw the future music revolution coming right around the corner. Their first products were designed to connect to either an existing stereo system or a pair of speakers, and in addition you needed to purchase a handheld controller to choose a song and control it. Back then, the music choices were limited to music you owned.
Two advances in technology springboarded Sonos into the mainstream — the introduction of the iPhone and the invention of streaming music services. Sonos is equally as focused on their software as they are their hardware, pledging from the very beginning to build products that all work together and can easily be updated and improved through software. No other system available delivers the features and provides access to all the services the Sonos ecosystem does — and certainly, none of them are as simple and fun to use.
This review does not cover the details of the mobile app and interface, but it is easily one of the greatest benefits of purchasing SONOS products. If you own multiple pieces, you can easily group units together, making it the perfect solution for everyday use as well as entertaining. By committing to future-proofing their products, Sonos has delivered an ecosystem that will never become obsolete. Their products can all be updated through software patches. Even the original Sonos lineup can still fit into the rest of today’s Sonos lineup and work together without issue.
In 2015, Sonos completely overhauled its flagship model, the PLAY:5. We were actually lucky enough to have them unveil it at one of our in-store events.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
Like all Sonos products, the PLAY:5 is well packed in styrofoam and cardboard. It is extremely rare to get a freight damaged Sonos product. Upon attempting to remove the speaker from the box, the first thing you will notice is the quality. The PLAY:5 is heavier larger and heavier than you might imagine if you haven’t seen it in person. It’s 8.03 x 14.33 x 6.06 in. and weighs in at 14 pounds. It will fit on a bookshelf or in a cabinet, but if you’re looking for something a little more discreet, the PLAY:3 or PLAY:1 might be other great options for you.
Sonos products are known for their durability and lack of defects. They actually subject each and every product to a series of tests to make sure it is perfect. Most manufacturers that produce a similar output to Sonos might only test one in every 1000, but Sonos tests every single one! The PLAY:5 is built to exacting standards. Even the 60,000 tiny micro perforations in the grill were tested in many different configurations to deliver the best results.
When it comes to design, the PLAY:5 is simple and straightforward. Available in either black or white matte finish, both versions come with the same graphite perforated grill. From the top and sides, you can see the color, but if you’re looking at it straight on, you will only see a thin outline of white or black around the grill.
The top of the PLAY:5 features a simple touch interface that allows you to control your music right from the speaker. Easily tap the volume up or down or swipe to navigate through your music. The back features a power cord and an Ethernet port in case you want to hardwire the PLAY:5 to your network instead of using WiFi.
Small rubber feet on the bottom allows you to place it on any surface without fear of damaging your furniture. You can position it horizontally on a shelf just like the original, or you can stand it up on either side. The SONOS logo is written and positioned in such a way that it looks right no matter how you position it, and the built-in gyroscope means your speaker will automatically adjust itself to give you the best possible sound regardless of whether it’s horizontal or vertical.
Setting up the PLAY:5 couldn’t be simpler. The free Sonos app connects the device to your WiFi network and walks you through the entire process. The PLAY:5 uses 6 internal antennas to deliver excellent wifi performance. Follow the on-screen instructions and you will be listening to music less than five minutes after you get it out of the box.
Inside the PLAY:5 are six speaker drivers. Three of them are bass drivers and three are high-frequency tweeters. Each one of them has its own amplifier with full DSP (digital signal processing) control. The DSP comes into play when you change the position of the speaker and when you turn on Trueplay, a new Sonos Feature.
Trueplay is a room correction feature that is built into the PLAY:5. Using your iPhone’s microphone, the phone takes the measurements and sends the data to the speaker, where it figures out what audio adjustments to make to give you more accurate sound for the room and position of the speaker.
If you have the PLAY:5 positioned well for listening, you will not hear too much change if you use TruePlay, however, if you needed to position the speaker in a less-than-ideal spot, the results are pretty amazing.
The PLAY:5 also has two built in microphones which as of the writing of this review are nonfunctioning. We suspect Sonos will announce voice control at some point in the future.
Testing, Testing … 1, 2, 3
When it was first introduced we could not wait to get our hands on the new PLAY:5. Many all-in-one, smaller size speaker systems have to compromise between offering accurate sound and having the ability to get up and go. Some just do not sound great, but can play very loudly, while others that sound really good give out when you push them. The Sonos PLAY:5 is a huge exception to this rule. A single speaker will fill a room with very accurate audio, and if you want to push it at a party, the PLAY:5 delivers just incredible bass and dynamics.
As impressive as a single PLAY:5 was on its own, what we were really excited about was hearing what a stereo pair would sound like. The app allows you to quickly pair two PLAY:5’s together, defining which is the right and which is the left speaker. Put them on a good solid speaker stand, stand them up, and place the tweeters to the inside.
For just under $999, you have a complete audio system that rivals setups costing 3-4 times as much. The stereo imaging is spot on, delivering a huge soundstage and you will actually feel bass drum kicks!
But wait, we’re not done yet. If you really want to be blown away, add the Sonos SUB to the system. The Sonos software is smart enough to know to send the really deep bass to the SUB and roll off those low tones to the PLAY:5s. Obviously, with the SUB added you get even better bass, but the mid-range improves as you remove the lower tones from PLAY:5’s cabinet.
We threw all kinds of music at this combination and came away in awe of how good it sounded for the money. No, it’s not the end-all of great audio, but for the money and ease of use, it’s extremely good.
We are sure the reason Sonos is able to get such great performance is the fact the speakers and amp are in the same box. Sonos knows the exact performance characteristics of the speakers and can design the amplifier to perfectly compliment those drivers.
The Sonos PLAY:5 is a great solution in a variety of situations. If you’re a budding audio enthusiast looking for a great sounding system without all of the equipment, wires, and settings, this is the way to go.
If you already have some Sonos components in your home, the PLAY:5 will be the new centerpiece that really brings everything together. Regardless of how you choose to use it, the PLAY:5 will not disappoint.
They even include an audio input so you can connect a separate phono stage and turntable to enjoy vinyl if you feel so inclined.
Sonos has always been a top selling brand at Audio Advice, and for good reason. It sounds great, is incredibly simple to use, and best yet, the company never stops providing new features and updates that improve the user experience, the sound, or both!
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Using an iPhone and Trueplay app, you can fine-tune the sound of the PLAY:5 to fit your environment. Normally this technology is only found on far more expensive, separate audio components, but Sonos has brought it to their PLAY:5.
Amazing as a Stereo Pair
In our testing we found a pair of PLAY:5’s to rival separate speaker systems costing far more. The sound accuracy and output a pair is able to reproduce is pretty amazing.
Access the Most Music
The Sonos app is used to control all Sonos products and lets you access more streaming music services than any other competitor. We actually cannot find a streaming service not available on Sonos. Plus, they have a team of hundreds of engineers constantly working on making the user experience of the app even better and push out free upgrades when they discover a better way of doing things.